The 90-year old LA Open golf classic played at Riviera Country Club this weekend has over the years produced some of golf’s most cherished memories. Now, with new sponsors, Genesis and The Tiger Woods Foundation in charge that tradition continues as the Genesis Open.
For Sahith Theegala it will be one of the highlights of his life. For four days, the 19-year-old Sophomore member of the Pepperdine Golf Team walked the hallowed Greens of Riviera alongside the world’s top players.
Theegala is a Chino Hills resident and 2015 graduate of Diamond Bar High School. His high school career includes two San Gabriel Valley Tribune Inland Area Player of the Year awards, four all-league awards and nearly every other High School and Junior Golf Award that Southern California has to offer.
After graduation, Sahith chose Pepperdine because of its strong academic tradition and its proximity to his home in Chino Hills.
“He has always placed his academics first. Academics and golf have always been the things that he is most passionate about.” Said Sahith’s mother Karuna as she and a contingent of family members followed Sahith during Sunday’s final round.
Theegala earned his exemption spot by winning the Genesis Open Collegiate Showcase. The Showcase was a one day 18-hole qualifying tournament held at the City of Industry course on Monday. Theegala was the low player with a 3-under 69 beating out UCLA’s Tyler Collier by one stroke.
After winning on Monday, Theegala didn’t blink, opening with a first round score of 67 only one stroke behind the eventual runaway winner Dustin Johnson’s 66.
“Oh, it was so much fun”. Said Theelgala after round 1. “I was definitely nervous on the first tee shot, but after that I just kind of settled into it and played golf. It’s still a little unreal to be I’m inside the ropes and playing with these guys. But, luckily I was paired with some really good guys”.Feature photo: Pepperdine Sophomore, Sahith Theegala finished 49th in Sunday’s Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. Sahith is a 2005 graduate of Diamond Bar High and lives in Chino Hills. Photo by Jon Gaede.As the only amateur in the field, Theegala’s strong start certainly got everyone’s attention and lots of bolstered anticipation for what was to come.
With intermittent rainfall and interrupted play to deal with in the second round, Theegala along with many others saw his scoring dip turning in a 1-over 73 but still well under the cutline and eligible to continue play into round three.
Paired with Phil Mickelson and J.B. Holmes, third round play resumed at 6:45 a.m. with the final round scheduled to start immediately with only a short break between rounds.
After finishing round 3 play and carding a 1-under 71 the group was back on the tee at 10:45 to start the final round.
Theegala’s following grew even bigger on Sunday. Coaches, Teammates, student body and 15-20 family members including Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends of the family all cheering raucously at every stroke.
By any standard, his performance against 143 of the world’s top professional golfers was extraordinary. Theegala finished tied with Sergio Garcia for 49th shooting a 2-under 282.
It is believed to be the best performance by an amateur at Riviera in more than 40 years.
“I am really happy with my performance. I had so much fun out there.” Said Theegala. “I never doubted my ability but I am not ever close to being ready for this level. I am really tired now and I have to play again tomorrow.”
With just less than half of the college golf schedule remaining to be played, Theegala will return to collegiate play with tons of confidence and a lot to brag about.
Dustin Johnson won his first championship after Riviera with a 17-under 267. He beat second place finishers Tom Pieters and Scott Brown by 5 strokes to win the $1.2 million winners share.